Under The Rock
Hardback, May 2018. Elliott & Thompson.
Paperback, May 2019.
Carved from the valley side above Mytholmroyd in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, Scout Rock is a steep crag overlooking wooded slopes and flat weed-tangled plateaus. To many it is unremarkable, to others it is a doomed place where 18th-century thieves would hide out; where the town tip once sat, suicides leapt to their death and the asbestos that claimed so many lives was buried in the soil. Scout Rock is also the subject of Ted Hughes’s 1963 essay ‘The Rock’, in which the poet describes growing up across the valley from “my spiritual midwife…both the curtain and backdrop to existence.”
Into this beautiful, dark and complex landscape steps Benjamin Myers, asking: are unremarkable places made remarkable by the minds that map them? The result is a lyrical and unflinching investigation into nature, literature, history, memory and the very meaning of place in modern Britain.
“The writing is perfectly poised and seductive, luminous, an earthy immersion into the granular dark of place, unveiling its shadows and its dark grandeur. The prose has an intense, porous quality, never overdone, but inhabiting the reader right from the stunning start with the voices of rock, earth, wood and water. This is a truly elemental read from which I emerged subtly changed. The writing has a shamanic quality; Benjamin Myers is a writer of exceptional talent and originality.. this book is not only a prose poem to a place in the most visceral sense, but in its synthesis of research and encounter it is also a great contribution to our understanding of place and our tangled relationship with it. This is one that will last, it has all the makings of a classic.” – Miriam Darlington
“Place-writing at its most supple: both deeply considered, and deeply felt” – Melissa Harrison
“What distinguishes Under the Rock is Myers’ unshakeable commitment. He writes at all times with rock-solid conviction, fashioning a book which is less a work of simple description than a new contribution to the mythology of Elmet” – Will Ashon
“Richly layered, densely and elegantly structured, discursive, elegiac and beautiful. Under The Rock is a stunning exploration of place, mind and myth.” – Jenn Ashworth
“Benjamin Myers’s celebration of the ‘tainted Eden’ of Calderdale is a model of close, loving attention, and a tribute to land and language – a beautiful reminder that one person’s ‘edge land’ is another’s centre” – William Atkins
“I really, really loved Under The Rock, and thought it truly stands out among other recent books in this genre. It confirms Ben as one of the most original and engaging British authors currently writing about landscape. He describes brilliantly the emotions that nature and place trigger in us, and the endless fascination we have with them. It’s a bone-tingling book about both a beautiful location, and about the nature of our engagement with our environment.” – Richard Benson
“A great invention of the self as the spirit of the place, and good addition to the new nature writing – doll’s arms, asbestos, floods, myths, dog shit, Ted Hughes and all.” – Melvin Burgess
“One of the many joys of Under the Rock – this absorbing, compelling, moving book – is its language; it trickles like a rivulet, thunders like a cataract, and sticks to you like mud. It is full of crannies and dips and peaks wherein wonders hide; explore it for a lifetime and you will not exhaust its mysteries. That is how deeply the landscape which Myers addresses has embedded itself into his sensibilities. He has a raptor’s eye; gulping, expansive, and, when required, capable of the finest, most intensely focussed forms. Unafraid of blood-drenched history and the darkest of despair, this is nonetheless a defiantly life-praising book; it accompanied me to bed and bar, train and plane, and each situation was enriched and brightened by its presence. Amongst a wider socio-political debasement of our language and a systemic undermining of its capacity to express the truth of commonality, this is utterly vital. In the truest sense of that word.” – Niall Griffiths